Enterprise and Skills Board: strategic plan

This full plan provides clarity around strategic direction to enterprise and skills agencies and a blueprint to Government to turn up the dial on productivity and drive inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

Executive Summary

This plan gives clarity around strategic direction to the enterprise and skills agencies - Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council, as well as the new South of Scotland Economic Partnership - so that they can collectively help Scotland move towards the top of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) rankings for productivity and for equality, wellbeing and sustainability.

Among the 36 OECD members, Scotland currently sits in mid-table for productivity. Closing this gap would mean more money for individuals to spend, improved business competitiveness and profits, and would deliver higher tax revenues to help fund better public services. It is a prize worth winning.

This plan therefore has two overarching features aimed at out-competing other countries:

  • a clear sense of what matters most, what will make the biggest difference to economic growth and where priorities should lie; and
  • agility to adjust course as the world changes, and to respond quickly to new opportunities as they arise.

It sets out four interconnected 'missions' that link directly to the work of the agencies and through which economic performance could be improved both rapidly and substantially. There are additional drivers of productivity, including investment and innovation, which either lie out with the Board's remit or will be a focus of the Board in future work.

While driving inclusive growth through increasing productivity has been the primary focus of the four chosen missions, they have also been developed with attention to:

1. Impacts on equality, wellbeing and sustainability - fostering an inclusive society where more individuals and communities benefit from the value created by growth, and ensuring that growth is complementary to environmental sustainability.

2. The importance of place, including national, regional and local implications.

The Board is consciously building on valuable existing Scottish Government policies such as: the Scotland Can Do Action Framework, which is focused on making Scotland the most entrepreneurial and innovative nation in the world; the Labour Market Strategy; and the new Trade and Investment Strategy, which aims to inspire, enable and support more businesses to sell more goods and services to a wider range of international markets.

It embeds the Government's commitment to Fair Work and inclusive economic growth that combines increased prosperity with greater equality, creates opportunities for all and distributes the benefits of increased prosperity fairly. Fair Work is increasingly recognised as a crucial component in delivering high performing and innovative workplaces.

Four interconnected Missions

The Strategic Plan sets out how to further drive productivity and inclusive growth in all parts of Scotland and for all Scotland's people, by:

1. Harnessing the full potential of progressive business models, work place innovation and Fair Work to enhance productivity, equality, wellbeing and sustainability. This will be achieved by promoting and supporting the development of highly capable businesses with long-term strategic orientations who utilise progressive workplace practices, technology, skilled resources and innovation to remain competitive.

2. Encouraging and enabling a shift to a more demand‑led skills system that better responds to the current and future skills needs of employers and individuals, including expanding work-based learning, and increasingly supports individuals to upskill and reskill. This requires building on our existing strength of a highly qualified workforce to address the under-utilisation of skills, graduate under-employment and growing and persistent skills shortages.

3. Promoting business creation and growth through helping to create a nation of dynamic and high achieving entrepreneurs, with a focus on inclusivity (women, rural, minority ethnic groups and others) and providing a new structure of support for business scale up, as well as targeting global market opportunities, capitalising on Scotland's unique assets, and using innovation as a key driver of productivity growth.

4. Increasing export growth through both the number of exporting businesses and the value of exports - sustaining and growing the value of Scotland's trade with new and emerging markets by better understanding product, services and in-country demand, and increase the number of exporters through broader and deeper reach at regional levels.

This plan sets out an initial 14 actions that the Board will provide clarity and strategic direction to the agencies to undertake and support them in progressing these aims. It also highlights 18 recommendations to Scottish Ministers where it believes there is additional potential that sits outside the Board's immediate remit to approve.

The Plan looks at how the system will operate. It commits to improving the experience of the customers of the system - businesses and learners - in everything that it does. It will champion the development of a truly digitally-enabled business support environment across Scotland, collectively reaching many more businesses and opening up new routes to stimulate growth. A main online entry point will help businesses identify what support is available and how to access it. An initial version of this will be delivered in April 2019.

A new concept of 'agency-fluid' teams will be established to deliver a more cohesive approach to programme delivery for the customer.

The Board will ensure that Scotland has a group of organisations - all of whom serve to grow Scotland's economy - where collaboration and working differently is 'business as usual'. This collaboration, in combination with better use of data and clarity around the national, regional and local conditions, will be critical to future success.

A performance framework has been established to monitor the impact and outcomes of agency activities, as well as how the agencies themselves work together. The framework will also take account of the importance of regional differences, differences between equalities groups and sustainability.

The Board will use feedback from this framework to adapt its approach where necessary. In doing so, it will promote a system that is agile and has the flexibility required to adjust course as the world changes and to respond quickly to new opportunities as they arise.

The plan sets out a clear direction for the agencies, as well as a set of guiding principles which should be instrumental as attention turns to delivery. The Board will promote the development of processes and culture to ensure delivery of commitments, to improve performance and to deepen collaboration, and it will continue to look ahead to future opportunities.

Engagement will be ongoing with the agencies, government (national and local), partners and, in particular, customers including businesses and learners. as we move into this next phase.

Summary Actions (More detail in the main document)

BCG (A1)

Establish a campaign to foster entrepreneurship and ambition across society, with particular focus on inclusivity (incl women, minority ethnic groups, rural considerations etc).

BCG (A2)

Create a main online entry point as part of a wider transformation to a truly digitally-enabled business support service providing rapid, tailored support.

Exp (A1)

Co-ordinate a national exporting service - a one Scotland approach to export delivery organisations and services.

Exp (A2)

Explore a new public/private sector partnerships which will provide support to scale-up, and refresh export support resources.

Exp (A3)

Develop digital, sales and international language training programmes for exporters.


Deliver an 'Innovating Workplaces' campaign to create awareness of productivity issues of business models, workplace innovation and Fair Work


Utilise data-led approaches to proactively identify and support sectors and firms who can exploit opportunities for growth or to enhance their resilience


Co-ordinate a programme of business models and workplace innovation activity that is driven by agency-fluid teams.

BCG (A3)

Boost overseas acquisitions through specialist support for scale up from a new public/private/SNIB collaboration.

FS (A1)

Implement the 5-stage skills alignment model[1] and a one system approach for learners and employers.

FS (A2)

Define the meta-skills[2] for use in future skills provision.

AU (A1)

Analytical Unit to lead on work to develop the performance framework.

AU (A2)

Analytical Unit to lead on an evaluation and research programme to better determine the impact from significant agency activities.

Del (A1)

Develop 'big data' systems that robustly inform agency planning and shared information.

Summary Recommendations (More detail in the main document)

FS (R1)

Use funding for colleges, universities and training providers to provide more agile support for employees and employers to upskill and reskill, increasing in-work learning using new models of provision.

FS (R2)

Integrate, expand or re-design forms of upskilling and reskilling support such as Individual Training Account or tax incentives.

FS (R3)

Create a flexible and sustainable funding model to meet the future expansion of demand for work-based and work-integrated learning.

Exp (R1)

Increase international awareness and exposure throughout the education system and champion the re-introduction of the post-study work visa.

FS (R4)

Accelerate, set a timescale for and align existing funds to facilitate delivery of the Learner Journey recommendations to reduce duplication and accelerate pathways to employment.


Embed Fair Work principles across the public sector and increase conditionality in business support.


Task the agencies to oversee provision of world class management and leadership training accessible across Scotland for a targeted number of business leaders each year.

BCG (R1)

Focus support on scale-up and frontier businesses, including young, ambitious and capable businesses with international aspirations and high growth potential businesses that contribute to the low carbon economy. Adopt a focus on inclusivity.

BCG (R2)

Engage with Business Gateway on support for start-ups. Adopt a focus on inclusivity (incl women, minority ethnic groups and rural considerations).

BCG (R3)

Build on the existing Brexit readiness work of public agencies and business organisations to strengthen the Scottish-level response.

BCG (R4)

Support Scotland's businesses to respond to challenges by levering maximum funds from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Del (R1)

Agencies should take a greater role, working collaboratively with local authority partners, the private sector and others, in delivering place-based economic development that responds to local opportunities and takes housing, infrastructure and digital connectivity into consideration.

BCG (R5)

Develop and promote Scotland as a Digital Nation, equipping and providing opportunities for digital business.

BCG (R6)

Increase investment in college and university spin-out venture programmes and in organisations focussed on driving entrepreneurship, innovation and research (such as Scotland Can Do and Scotland is Now).

Exp (R2)

Develop an exporting partnership plan which will increase the involvement of private sector expertise and world-wide resources to grow our exports and imports.

Exp (R3)

Increase ministerial visibility in existing and potential trading partner countries and fast growing priority markets, and create stronger government-to-government and business-to-government networks.

Exp (R4)

Explore the full potential of the international dimension of colleges and universities in supporting economic growth.

Del (R2)

Develop a National Asset Register of sectors, skills and capabilities that is geographically focussed.



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